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By Andy Hull, Arizona Attorney

(remember the law changes, this article may be outdated)

There are three situations a landlord should be aware of when dealing with tenant property left in a rental home or apartment. These involve the tenant moving and returning the keys to the landlord, the tenant abandoning the rental premises and the tenant being court ordered, evicted and locked out of the property. The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (ARLTA) governs all rental of residential property (i.e., apartments homes, condos, etc.)

A.R,S. § 33-1310(3) defines delivery of pos­session by a tenant as returning all keys to the landlord and vacating the premises. In this situation, any property left in the rental premises is at the landlord’s discretion to discard, give to charity or keep. In other words, the tenant has legally returned possession to the landlord and by doing so has given the landlord the rental premises and everything left behind.

As a precautionary measure, the landlord should inventory and photograph the property in the event the tenant would later make a claim for it. In essence, by giving the landlord the keys, the tenant is saying ‘here is your rental hack, do with it what you wish”.

There are, however, some instances when the tenant is either evicted by a court order or sim­ply leaves without hay notice and abandons property and/or possessions. Depending on the situation, the time frames to hold the items have been shortened.

If the tenant is evicted, and it is necessary to file a Writ of Restitution and have the court con­stable or sheriff allow the landlord to take back possession of the apartment, then A.R.S. § 33-1368E applies. Under this section, the landlord need only hold the tenant’s personal property for 21 calendar days after the constable enforces the Writ of Restitution. The property may be stored in the tenant’s former apartment, in a vacant unit or off the apartment premises at the landlord’s discretion.

If the tenant makes a written offer to pay storage and moving costs within five days, then upon payment of these charges by the tenant, the landlord most surrender the possessions. Payment by the tenant relieves the landlord from any further liability for the person’s prop­erty.

A landlord still is required to inventory the property and mail to the tenant’s last known address the location and costs of this storage. If the property is of little or no value, the landlord may simply dispose of the property without the storage requirement. However, the tenant is entitled access – without pay­ment – for certain personal effects such as necessary work tools and clothing or financial documents, There also are damages that can he awarded the tenant for failure of the landlord to comply with the requirements of this law.

If the tenant simply abandons the property without notice (“skips out in the middle of the night’), the same procedures and requirements of A.R.S, § 33-1368E apply except the landlord need only hold the property for I0 days, not 21.

The definition of abandonment also has been expanded to cover two different fact situations. If the properly is in the unit, the Abandonment Notice cannot be posted until after the rent is due for 10 days. If there is no property in the unit, then the Abandonment Notice can he posted after the tenant is five days delinquent in rent.

Keep in mind the strict requirements to post and certify mail the Notice and inventory. Failure to do so could result in potential lia­bility for an illegal ouster and damages awarded to the tenant.